Monday, October 31, 2005
Part 2 of 2 - Shame on Westmoreland County !
Westmoreland County (WC), PA. had a perfectly good working radio system that for some reason someone felt that the WHOLE system needed replacing.
This is fine as the system did need to be updated and brought up to times. Besides that GRANT MONEY was now going to be available through Homeland Security. IMO HOWEVER the WC county officials LEAD BY County Commissioner Tom Balya failed to do ANY research whatsoever on the proper radio system needed by our area, jumping at the first system he saw in the Sears Catalog.
If Grant money were to become available for YOU to buy a car would you immediately run out and buy a Lemon Chevrolet Lumina without looking at all the new vehicles available along with their prices and options ?
I have pointed out many different brands of radio products that are compatible and would meet the needs of our area at a greatly reduced cost and the frequencies that will work in our area however WC Department of Public Safety went with an 800 Mhz Motorola system without checking out any other brands or systems. Basically WC just Married Motorola.
Motorola has some of the most expensive radio equipment ever made and once you start using Motorola it is almost impossible to buy anything else because Motorola has made it so that other brands of equipment will not work with theirs by using proprietary technology and trademarks.
Did I mention their prices are OUT-RAGE-OUS !!
With a normal system if you wish to update your radio system you just order one from your favorite local radio maintenance supplier or from out of a trade magazine.
In simpler times we referred to this as fare trade and competition.
With the system we are stuck with now, if you want to add another mobile or portable radio to your department you HAVE TO go to Motorola and pay 1000 percent over and above what a radio should cost and much more than these are worth.
WE ARE LOCKED INTO buying Motorola because of the total lack of knowledge on the part of our officials. Thus the Marriage between Motorola and WC.
Other radio equipment will work to some degree with this system however DEPUTY MARK refuses to program the radios or tell anyone else the information needed ( programming coding information ) to make those other brands work with our system.
EF Johnson has such a radio that will work with our system however many companies have told me that Mark will NOT SUPPLY the information needed nor will he program them.
In a NUT-shell, IMO we have someone that was NOT QUALIFIED to purchase or plan our radio system, causing us to lose Millions of Dollars. You do not ask a County Commissioner or anyone outside of having a radio communications background how to plan a radio system.
That would be like trusting a garbage collector to do all the purchasing for the emergency room of a hospital !
STILL no one EVER gave me a good explanation as to why COURTHOUSE and PARK MAINTENANCE employees are considered FIRST RESPONDERS and get 800 Mhz RADIOS while our POLICE, FIREMEN, and EMT's go WITHOUT !
We still have a VHF radio system in PERFECT working order, why aren't they using that system ?
HOW HIGH ARE OUR ANTENNAS ON THOSE TOWERS, 2 feet - 20 feet or 200 feet ? MOST TOWERS ARE 350 FOOT, SO WHERE ARE OUR ANTENNAS, UP HIGH or DOWN LOW ?
WHO DECIDED THAT THE WESTERN HALF OF WESTMORELAND COUNTY SHOULD GET 5 TIMES THE AMOUNT OF TOWER SPACE THAN THE EASTERN HALF ?
WHAT A HUGE MISTAKE WE MADE BY PUTTING OUR TRUST INTO ELECTED OFFICIALS AND THOSE THEY HIRE.
From all the information I can gather, Commissioner Tom Balya put the purchasing decision of all the radios and the system into the hands of 911 Director Rich Matason and 911 Deputy Director Mark Brammell.
I can only go by the information that I receive by third party informants as Commissioner Tom, Mr. Rich and Mr. Mark will not speak to me on the record… NOR will they speak to me off the record. NOR will they speak to me, PERIOD.
Me, your humble Blah-ger who spent most of my life designing, installing and servicing two way communications systems and Broadcast Stations as their FCC engineer of record ?
Maybe it's because now I'm spending most of my time finding out why WC Department of Public Safety forgot about the word SAFETY ?
It seems the department only worrys about making sure Management drives NEW cars and TRUCKS, gets good vacations, Blackberry Cell Phones and all those other PERKS that WE PAY FOR !
Safety in Perks, perhaps.
The only one who would talk to me was Ted Kopas, who is Chief of Staff for Chairman Tom Balya and HE WOULD NOT ALLOW me to speak to Commissioner Tom. He doesn't know a DAMN THING about this radio system except that it is PAID FOR, IN FULL ! Oh, he did know the time as he was in a hurry to leave.
Does this sound like America or does any other country come into your mind ?
I never said that Commissioner Tom or Deputy Mark had to call ME for advice, just someone in that field that would be qualified enough and that could advise them on a new system for this area, then FOLLOW THE ADVICE GIVEN.
When I watch the 3 Stooges in the morning on Spike TV I am so reminded of those three attempting to design a radio system.
One knows how to get the money, the other knows how to order the equipment and the last one knows how to turn it on. None of them knows how to fix a radio with the exception of RESETTING an EMERGENCY BUTTON (and I wonder about that).
I’m sorry, there is more to a computerized trunking APCO 25 digital radio system than that.
My point is this, from all that I gather the mighty 3 were sandbagged into believing that only one system made by one company would work in this area and only one frequency range would work.
I had been looking for any companies that MIGHT have performed a topographical study of this area and I came up BLANK.
From all I could gather there wasn’t a study done.
This is so CRITICAL because if the wrong frequencies are selected the radio system will not work properly.
BUT WAIT !!
I received an email on Thursday from a company that DID INDEED DO AN ENGINEERING SURVEY of this area and WARNED those in high places NOT to use 800 Mega Hurtz for their radio system as it won't work and Motorola because of their prices !
THAT WAS THE PROOF I HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR !
THE COUNTY WAS WARNED but didn’t listen. Spending money just for the fun of it was more important than taking good Grant Money and mixing it with our TAX Money, then Investigating the local conditions for this area, discussing it with a group of engineers BEFORE signing anything or dropping Millions of Dollars into a system that doesn’t work right.
Commissioner Tom, Deputy Mark and Director Rich were all advised that 800 Mhz would not work well in Westmoreland County ! Shame they didn’t listen. They did the exact opposite !
As I said, when this system is working is sounds great. The audio is as good as if you were sitting on the couch with the Cop, Fireman, or Medic. But with the system’s DEAD SPOTS and TOWER DOWN TIME it is unreliable, period. Unreliable for EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS.
This has been proven over and over again across the USA by communities, towns and cities and even states dropping this same type system and going back to what they had, or taking the proper action and having a radio study done by a reliable engineer before ordering new equipment again. I believe Motorola has even been SUED over this type of a system before.
A County Commissioner is NOT a Radio Engineer, NOR is a 911 Director or Deputy Director.
(A Radio Engineer on the other hand COULD be a County Commisioner next year... think about it !)
If Commissioner Tom, Director Rich and Deputy Mark say they don’t claim to be radio engineers, then why the hell did they order the equipment ?
DID YOU KNOW that Allegheny, Fayette, Somerset and Indiana Counties (to name a few) all have on their staff a paid Licensed FCC Radio Engineer or two to handle system problems like we have each and every day. But we in WC do not.
Why doesn’t WC have an FCC licensed radio repair operator on staff to fix or advise them of their equipment problems ?
When you sink Millions and Millions of dollar$ into a radio system, and have money in the budget for new vehicles BUT NOT FOR AN FCC ENGINEER TO TAKE CARE OF OUR MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR RADIO SYSTEM, I wonder if someones head might be screwed on backwards ! Which leads me to think of the 3 Stooges again. Moe, Larry... the Brains !
Our system is a mighty fine system for a taxi company or dispatching a construction crew or PLACING AN ORDER AT DENNYS, but not for SAVING LIVES !
My first POINT IN SUMMARY IS THIS…
The Commissioners and 911 Management were warned by a Radio Engineering Company NOT to go with 800 Mhz for this area and they failed to listen. They also did NOT check out that joining up with Motorola with a system like this would enter them into a very costly Money Marriage.
At 400 Mhz and 26 towers (and a definite topographical study) I believe we would have a working system by now. One that doesn’t go down every time someone at 911 sneezes.
Getting an engineers report and not listening, or not getting one at all.. I don’t know which one of the two is the bigger sin.
First off, I have nothing against the Harrison City Fire Department, Station 87. From what I hear they do a damn good job.
Second, I am going solely on information received as I do not work at 911 and I would not put Joe Niedzalkoski’s job at risk by asking him. Joe is the 911 Coordinator for WC and also a very good friend.
I keep him out of the picture because 911 Management knows he is a friend of mine. Besides, Joe does NOT make these hair brained Million Dollar boners, he is a bit smarter than your average bear.
I have also attempted to give BOTH Mark Brammell and Commissioner Tom Balya a chance to comment on the following prior to it being posted. Neither wished to comment or be contacted.
This part has nothing to do with equipment and the outer workings of 911 however plays a very important part in perhaps how WC Department of Public Safety is run internally.
Perhaps we would have more radios / consoles that worked and less company vehicles and PERKS if the following were not true.
As I have mentioned many times, I am not a writer, just your plan old retired electronics man with too many RF burns to prove it, and also a concerned citizen with the background to know that the radio system our Top Dogs snookered us into is a piece of CRAP.
So I will attempt to do my best in elaborating what I have to say in this second part.
IMO, within Government it is not good to hire your own family to do jobs that are BETTER HANDLED by qualified applicants. In fact within any organization it is not good to hire your own family to do the jobs that should be given to people that are qualified to execute those duties.
There is a word for this, NEPOTISM.
Perhaps when it comes to a mom and pop store it is ok to hire your own family, many good businesses are family owned and operated however not when it comes to decisions that might mean the difference between
Besides, this is not a business, it is 911 ! A department within our county solely here to save lives.
Look at our last FEMA director, Mr. Michael D. Brown. He was the President’s friend and promised a job within the administration. He got his job but at the cost of what ?
Although I wouldn’t have classified this as Nepotism myself, I called two reporters that I know, one is a TV reporter in Pittsburgh and the other a local newspaper writer and I explained what I’m about to tell you to them. They both agree with each other that Nepotism definitely applies when hiring family OR friends over qualified applicants when it comes down to govenment.
This brings me to the WC Department of Public Safety.
Mark Brammell as most of you know is the Deputy Director of WC 911. It is my understanding that he can hire and fire within the whole department, at least that is what 3 people have told me at the 911 Center.
You may have also seen me write about Mark Brammell being the Assistant Fire Chief of Station 87, Harrison City. That is also fine and he is to be commended, anyone that can hold down a 9 to 4 job a few days a week and also volunteer his time as an Assistant Fire Chief is excellent.
But that brings me to something that is very upsetting.
There are some highly qualified 911 dispatchers at the center and out in the world at large that are for hire and promotion but instead of promoting or hiring those that are trained in the field and qualified in every aspect of the emergency communications, he hires his friends from Fire Station 87, from what my sources tell me.
I am not saying that these friends and co-firemen he has hired are or are not qualified, I am only going on information received that they were indeed hired.
Also from what I’m told, they were given higher positions and are in charge of those that have many more years seniority. This is the reason a few good dispatchers quit their jobs in the recent past. I have been in touch with a few of them and that is what they have told me.
This affects how 911 is run, pride in peoples work. I know I’d be more than a little pissed off if I was overlooked for a promotion and the new guy or the guy that goes fishing with the boss got it.
Gene, who is 2nd Assistant at the Harrison City Fire Department is a dispatcher at 911 supposedly hired by Mark and now Bill who is CHIEF of the Harrison City Fire Department is our acting Homeland Security Liaison !
That’s the 3 highest ranking people from the same fire department working at three of the highest ranking positions at 911.
Is that not Nepotism ?
If this was Latrobe Steel I could understand if all three worked there unless of course they were all related to the hiring boss if you see my point. But in this case it is Mark who is doing the hiring and I believe those are his friends.
I only bring this up because it is the WC employees that bring it up to me in email after email, and it appears to be a hiring practice that should not be practiced. The WC employees are upset and I’m sure it affects their working performance.
Bill’s position, Homeland Security Liaison (as I understand it to be called) is not a paid WC job. I understand it he is paid by Region 13 which is part of Homeland Security, but appointed or recommended by Mark.
My second POINT IN SUMMARY IS THIS…
WC Department of Public Safety is just that, a Department within our County that deals with the Safety of our Public.
Perhaps no one ever put it to you that way before.
So if a radio system is not working properly, which it isn’t… and perhaps the wrong people are in executive positions at 911, and that may be the case... then maybe we should start worrying about our own Safety instead of letting one Commissioner and Two Directors do it for us.
Maybe it is time for NEW MANAGEMENT ? In fact, I will go a step further and say that it IS my HONEST opinion IT IS time for NEW MANAGEMENT at the Westmoreland Department of Public Safety !
I would say call your commissioner, but you would only get as far as the Chief of Staff...
This Blah-g has been and will remain dedicated to the proper operation of our 911 system which normally will only deal with it’s equipment.
This sidebar today is only a something that happened to fall in my lap and I felt was worth reporting on.
So did the two reporters that I spoke to…
Thank God for the Dispatchers, at least most of them know what they are doing !
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